Which Dallas Cowboys Players Are Destined for Pro Bowl Performances in 2014?
The Dallas Cowboys have not had the best of luck when it comes to players making the Pro Bowl as of late. Since 2011, the Cowboys have had only 10 Pro Bowlers, with five of those off of last year's team, per Pro Football Reference.
This year, the Cowboys roster is littered with players on offense who have the potential to be selected to the event. However, there are very few players on defense who have a shot to make the Pro Bowl squad.
This further illustrates how strong the Cowboys offense is and how weak the defense is. The offense looks poised to be one of the best in the league, while the defense needs significant improvement just to be considered average.
The following list of players who I project will make the Pro Bowl this year demonstrates this fact even more.
Without further ado, let's take a look at which Cowboys players are primed for a Pro Bowl appearance this year.
The scariest thing about Bryant is that he still has a ton of room to grow. When he came into the NFL, he was a poor route-runner, but he has shown constant improvement every year since.
Bryant is finally entering the prime of his career. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Bales stated in a recent article that, "Bryant will enter the 2014 season at age 25, which is one year before the career peak for most wide receivers."
Not only is he improving as a player, but the Cowboys' scheme is also finding new ways to get him the ball this summer, most notably by lining him up in the slot receiver position.
In the slot, Bryant is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Typically, slot cornerbacks are smaller and quicker in nature. Therefore, he could utilize his size and physicality to his advantage against most slot cornerbacks.
Everything points to Bryant having another extremely productive year, which should make him an easy choice to make the Pro Bowl.
Jason Witten has been the Cowboys' most consistent player the last 10 years. He has been a reliable target for Tony Romo and also been an above-average blocker in the run game.
Witten has made the Pro Bowl nine out of the 11 years he has been in the NFL, and this year should be no different.
He will continue to be the reliable target he has been for his whole career. The continued progression of Bryant will cause defenses to allocate more resources to stop him, which will leave Witten with favorable matchups.
Even though he is 32 years old and seemingly on the downside of his career, don't expect his production to drop. The way Witten plays is not predicated on athleticism, it is predicated on smarts and savviness, which should allow him to be effective much later into his career, compared to other players at his position.
Witten has never been the type of player to blow by or jump over defenses; what he does do is run great routes that take advantage of the soft spots in the opposing defense.
Witten may not be the flashy, big-play tight end that a player like Jimmy Graham is, but he does all the little things exceptionally well. That has allowed him to remain an elite player—one who should make another Pro Bowl in 2014.
Another player who should easily make the Pro Bowl is Tyron Smith, to whom Dallas recently gave a new extension. Smith was arguably the Cowboys' best player last year, as evidenced by the fact that he was the Cowboys' only All-Pro selection in 2013.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him at plus-22.5, which is incredible for a player who turned only 23 years old late in the season. Furthermore, Smith was the only tackle with more than 600 snaps who allowed one sack or fewer. He frequently dominated opposing defensive ends and should only improve as he gains more experience.
Smith is an extremely powerful and athletic tackle who can match up with anybody the defense throws at him. Look for him to continue his run of dominance, become one of the two or three best offensive tackles in the NFL and be named to another All-Pro and Pro Bowl team.
Another player who should repeat as a Pro Bowler is DeMarco Murray. Last year was Murray's best of his career. He had over 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns and averaged 5.2 yards per carry, according to Pro Football Reference.
Murray is entering the last year of his contract, so he should have extra motivation to play at a high level. If he wants to get a significant offer from the Cowboys, or any team in free agency, he must have another career year.
In addition, the offensive line will be much-improved in 2014. The addition of Zack Martin through the draft and the further development of linemen like Ronald Leary, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick should lead the offensive line back to being one of the best in the NFL.
A better offensive will likely lead to bigger, more frequent running lanes for Murray, which will translate to easier yards and more touchdowns for the veteran back.
As long as he remains healthy, he should make his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
The first player on this list who hasn't yet made the Pro Bowl is Travis Frederick. When he was drafted in 2013, many writers deemed him a reach. However, the former Wisconsin Badger proved his doubters wrong and had a fantastic rookie season.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) stated that Frederick was the best run-blocking center in the league, giving him a plus-22.4 grade. He proved that could mentally grasp an NFL playbook and execute it at a very high level.
Where Frederick struggled last year was when he was put up against quick nose tackles in pass protection (like the Kansas City Chiefs' Dontari Poe). Nevertheless, another year will allow him to become more familiar with the subtle nuances of playing in the NFL, which means he can expect to significantly improve his pass-blocking.
If Frederick can improve in pass protection, not only will he make the Pro Bowl, but he will also have a chance to be an All-Pro.
The dark-horse candidate to make the Pro Bowl for the Cowboys is talented cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Last year, Scandrick was easily the best corner on the roster. He constantly did well given the enormity of what was asked of him. Throughout the year, he had to play a great deal of snaps in the slot and on the outside. However, no matter where he was on the field, he played at a high level.
In pure pass coverage, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a grade of plus-8.5, which was good enough to be in the top 15.
One place where Scandrick routinely struggled was with ball skills. Oftentimes, he was in perfect position to make an interception but simply didn't secure the pass.
Nonetheless, it appears as though Scandrick, as quoted by ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins, has been working on his pass receiving abilities:
Just focusing on catching the ball and looking the ball in...When you catch it, you've got to see it into the pocket. And those were some of my issues last year. I was catching the ball and turning my head. But I'm just trying to come out here every day and stay positive and just be humble.
During the Cowboys' Blue-White Scrimmage, he had a one-handed interception of Tony Romo. This is the type of play that he would not have made in prior years; hopefully it is a sign of things to come.
For the Cowboys defense to be at least adequate this year, it needs some players to step up. Scandrick has the ability to be that player and make his first Pro Bowl appearance.